In recent years, bushfires have ravaged large parts of the country.
The Queensland floods in 2011 and 2009 Victorian bushfires caused much untold suffering to humans and animals alike. Even before the 2015 summer season began, devastating bushfires were sweeping across Western Australia and South Australia. Ours is a landscape of extremes, and with an increasingly unstable climate, experts warn that more wild weather is yet to come.
Emergencies can occur quickly and without warning. While it’s impossible to prevent such events, being well prepared can mean the difference between life and death — particularly for companion animals, who are wholly dependent on their carers for their safety.
When faced with a crisis situation you’ll be glad you prepared your emergency plan in advance. Here’s how to make one.
Don’t wait for an emergency to happen
When a disaster strikes, it’s important to act as quickly as possible. Having an emergency plan so you know what needs to be done is essential. Taking time to prepare for emergencies in advance will improve the safety and well being of your family and companion animals. It is also recommended that you practice your emergency evacuation plan before it is needed.
Designate an ’emergency guardian’. This is someone, preferably close by, who can enact your evacuation plan if you’re not home. This person could be a neighbour who is home during the day — a trusted person who you can leave keys with.
Where to take your animals
Determine what options there are for making sure that your animals are in a safe place during an emergency. Understandably you would want them to stay with you, but this is not always possible. Emergency shelters for example often do not accept animals for hygiene and safety reasons. If considering moving animals to a safer place, do so early to avoid unnecessary risk.
If you have time to find safe temporary accommodation for animals, first consider people that you know, such as family and friends. Other options are: boarding facilities or an animal welfare shelter away from
the threatened area.
If you are able to find temporary accommodation for your animal, make sure you bring medical and feeding information, food, medicine and other supplies with them.
If you have to evacuate your house, always take your animals with you. Do not leave animals unattended or in a motor vehicle during an emergency.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when evacuating with your animals:
- Bring them indoors well in advance of an emergency event. Consider securing them inside, so that they do not take flight or runaway.
- Use a secure animal carrier/cage, leash or harness to move them to safety.
- Ensure all vaccinations remain current.
- Ensure all animals can be easily identified with a microchip and/or secure tag detailing name, contact numbers and current address. Remember — during times of disaster, telephones may not be available.
- Make sure to pack medical and feeding information, food, medicine and other supplies.
- Make sure you know various routes to get out of the dangerous zone.
If you must leave animals at home
If your only option is to leave your animals at home in an emergency, take the following precautions:
- Confine them in a safe area inside with small windows.
- Remove potential hazards from the space.
- Ensure they have access to plenty of food and fresh water. For example fill up bathtubs, sinks and/or buckets.
- Do not leave them chained outside.
- Never leave an animal outside without shelter, food and clean water and bedding.
- Provide toilet litter and bedding for each animal.
- In case of flooding, leave your animals in the highest location in your home, or a room that has access to counters or high shelves where they can take shelter. Position a heavy chair or crate to allow access to a higher refuge such as tables, bench tops or shelves.
- Leave a visible note or sign outside on the door, detailing what companion animals are inside, where they are, how you can be contacted and details of your vet.
- Inform your state authority and/or state RSPCA so that possible rescue can be arranged.